SUKUMAR RAGHURAM writes: “Mysore is the God chosen heaven on Earth” is his most famous quote. He is quite convinced that there can be no better place in this world.
My grandfather, Bapu Ramanna, is walking into 105 today, March 17.
It is quite amazing how young his mind is. He loves to talk about his life and the past 100-plus years. His story telling is pure magic. The fact that he still remembers several incidents from his childhood days is something wonderful.
He has immense interest in music, drama, and literature. Of course politics and cricket completes the circle. Just yesterday, he showed me a news article which talked about Australia’s 203-run win over Scotland. tAta was very impressed. He smiled at me with that trademark twinkle in his eyes.
In his own words, he was B.M.Shri’s paTTa shishya, during his days in Maharaja’s college. tAta donned the role of mELanAyaka in B.M. Shri’s Ashwatthaman. Who will believe me if I say that he can still recite several lines from the drama?
tAta would tell me stories about his life in Krishnamurthypuram. The entire family would walk until city market for grocery shopping. And, on most days they would walk back. The colourful jaTaka gaaDi was quite expensive for a middle-class family. On special occasions tAta would treat his kids with a tonga ride from the market back home.
The erstwhile Ganesha theatre was just a tent in 1930’s. It cost two anas to sit on the floor (you had to carry a mat from your home) and four anas to sit on the chair. Only adults had the luxury of watching movies. Not that the children cared too much. Each child got one kaasu (I am told 12 kaasu makes 1 ana, I really don’t know) to spend the way he/she wanted while tAta and friends enjoyed a movie inside Ganesha tent.
I am sure one kaasu must be quite a lot of money at that time. What else can explain his Rs 30 per month salary at silk factory in 1937? When he retired in 1956, his salary was Rs 280 per month. On that note, I still wonder why he wasn’t too delighted when he found out what my starting salary was.
In those days Mysore was well known for house concerts and tAta would attend almost all of them very religiously. Bidaram Krishnappa, Mysore Vasudevacharya, Veene Sheshanna, Veene Venkatagiriyappa, and Chikkaramarayaru were a few of the stalwarts whom tAta really liked. He has enjoyed several concerts at Bidaram Krishnappa’s house. That was way before Bidaram Krishnappa Mandira was even envisioned.
tAta has an excellent grip on both English and Kannada. Yesterday I was going through several letters he had written to different newspapers. Most of his letters in English were published in Indian Express. That partly explains why a lot of his children and grandchildren still like Indian Express than any other newspaper. Genes have so many levels!
Most of his letters revolved around the development of India as a self-sufficient power house. There are several other letters which talk about the improvements in the infrastructure and a healthy growth of Mysore city. I really think I should republish them on the web. I am also told that tAta wrote letters to chief ministers and prime ministers regularly, whenever he came across inadequacies and inefficiencies in the government machinery.
Like most Mysoreans, he goes through an ‘out of the World’ experience with a good cup of coffee. He always wants his coffee to be “hot like hell, thick like paste, and bitter like poison”. Oh, well, that I don’t know.
His enthusiasm, zeal, energy and passion are unparalleled. That is indeed the secret of his healthy life. Even today he dreams of making Mysore the greatest place on the world map. He was not too happy that I didn’t even try to get into Infosys, Mysore. He was hoping that I would create wonders. It just didn’t make sense to him that I was going to leave Mysore to live in some small town in a far away country. It really doesn’t make sense, I know.
Later, when my cousin joined Infosys, tAta was thrilled. His immediate question was “Narayanamurthy gaLige magaLu iddALye?” I guess I forgot to mention that he is very subtle, shrewd and super intelligent.
I wish him a very Happy Birthday. I plan to sit next to him at his Saraswathipuram home today and tell him that “Mysore indeed is the God chosen heaven on Earth”. He will be thrilled.